Peak(s):  Cleveland Peak  -  13,414 feet
Unnamed 13401  -  13,401 feet
"Dead Man Peak"  -  13,050 feet
Unnamed 13384  -  13,384 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2021
Modified:  09/16/2021
Date Climbed:   09/11/2021
Author:  CarpeDM
Additional Members:   RWinters, IHikeLikeAGirl
 Hello Cleveland! A Musical Tribute   

Hello Cleveland! A musical tribute

The Cleveland quartet of peaks, like the namesake city, doesn’t get a lot of love. There are just 5 trip reports on this site – 3 by 13er finishers and the other two authors are closing in on finishing. It is a bit understandable since it is not a casual day on good trail to a set of peaks above the magic threshold. Instead, it involves a pack-into-camp (usually), some bushwhacking, then a long scramble-adjacent ridge-run, as well as resummiting 2 of the 4 peaks by the standard route (is there another route? We spied a couple of possibilities), which means going back over that scrambly ridge-run at the end of a long day. The route specs don’t seem that bad. From camp, a line I drew on Caltopo puts it at 7.8 miles and 5,150 feet of gain. Chicago Transplant has it as 9 miles and 5,800 feet from camp. The Climbing Cooneys go to the high end on mileage, saying 11.55 miles and 5,070 feet gained from the lake. Furthermore has it at 12.9 miles and 5,400 feet from the Music Pass trailhead. Your mileage may vary, but none of these seem designed to provide an epic day. Nevertheless, bergsteigen and others warn not to take this route lightly. And when powerhouse peakbaggers like these folks say it, take it seriously. We did, and we still got wrecked.

Valerie has been focusing on the Sangres for a while and was skittish about the amount of reported scrambling involved. She prefers to keep it at class 2. We've been partnering up for a few peak-grabs, so when she suggested this one, I happily obliged. Randy was interested as well, and we met him at a couple of points during the trip.

Admittedly, part of my interest in this trip was the musical inspiration it gave me to write this trip report. I haven't written a trip report for 9 years, for a few reasons. But Cleveland being the site of the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, the subject of a great rock anthem (and Drew Carey show theme song), as well as the source of a very funny scene in the best mockumentary of all time, I couldn't resist. It helped that to get to these peaks, you go over Music Pass. I was surprised no one had written this report before. It must mean that I had to. So come along with me now. We’ll go back in time to a mystic land with rock that is reminiscent of Stonehenge (Spinal Tarp, er, Tap)– well, to the geologically untutored and those wanting to stretch analogies to fit a theme. (And please don't give my trip report the two-word review "Sh!t sandwich.")

The Music Pass trailhead is definitely still Subaru-able which helped me, because I was already going to be doing the approach hike in the dark on Friday evening. I cruised up it quickly, and got through the pretty easy approach to the Lower Sand Creek Lake with some elk bugling accompaniment where I found the campsite that Valerie and Randy had grabbed. This was made infinitely easier by the sign that Valerie hung for me (as well as the friendly camp neighbors). I greeted Valerie and met Randy, and we had a short discussion of the itinerary for the next day. Valerie and I planned to start at 5am, while Randy was to start at 5:30.

I spent a restless night before we got going right at 5am. Even though I felt just like the end of a mule, it’s high time we went! (Joe Cocker)

One thing that concerned us was the approach to the ridge. Some had headed southeast from the lake toward the end of the northeast trending ridge that would then lead to the saddle between points 13,369 and 13,495. This route seemed to involve some nasty bushwhacking and cliffy terrain. We were eager to avoid that. Others had written of a mild, hidden gully far up the basin between Tijeras and point 13,495. Mild? Yeah! Let’s do that! What we didn’t notice was any mention of the phalanx of willows that stood between us and the gully. Yes, I now see that the Climbing Clooneys mention them as a significant obstacle, and Chicago Transplant mentions being able to zigzag around willows. In the low light of early morning, we didn’t find any workaround which signaled that, although we’d get there eventually, today we would be taking the long cut (Uncle Tupelo).

The long cut through the willows down below

The fight through the willows in the morning would be nothing like the death match on the way down. But we clearly didn’t find the best way through because, shortly before getting to the hidden gully, and having started a half hour later, Randy came strolling up. He had hugged the right side, whereas we were mostly a bit left of the main drainage. But he hadn't gotten through unscathed either, as he was bleeding from the shin. We three intrepid adventurers proceeded up the rocky but low-ish angle gully (hint: stay left for the earliest encounter with tundra). Having made it to the sunny saddle, we reclaimed our excitement – although still a bit daunted by how far away everything looked.

The access gully (Photo credit: Valerie)

First view of the ridge - includes Pt 13,401 and Cleveland Peak

The stroll from the saddle between 13369 and 13495 to the saddle between 13495 and Pt 13401 went quickly as there is easy shelf-like sidehilling with little elevation change. From there, we fearlessly (Pink Floyd) took on the first summit of the day. It was easy enough at the beginning, but became scrambleque between the sub/false summit and the summit.

And I'll climb that hill in my own way

Nice one of Randy silhouetted higher on the ridge (Photo credit: Valerie)

For scramble buffs, this will not be difficult. It will be fun, at least until you have to do it again on the way back. The consensus seems to be that some of the scrambling can be avoided by getting off the ridge. I felt that most of these workarounds (1) wouldn't make it discernibly easier or safer; (2) wouldn't save much time; and (3) wouldn't be as fun. Although peppered throughout, most of the sustained scrambling opportunities come between the Pt 13,401/Cleveland saddle and the Cleveland summit. Otherwise, there is a lot of ridge walking.

At this point, I had a lot of energy callin’ me as I laid eyes on these, ahem, Cleveland rocks (The Presidents of the United States).

Those, my friend, are Cleveland Rocks

Some of the fun getting there

And some more

More scrambling later on

Once on Cleveland, it was a quick jaunt along the narrow, pretty flat ridge to what I’ve seen referred to as the “punting green.” I had never heard the term before, but this feature is certainly bigger than a putting green. By this time, Randy was already well on his way to Pt 13,384. Valerie and I did a little eenie-meenie and chose to go for “Dead Man Peak" first.

The "punting green" can be seen past Cleveland

"Dead Man Peak" (right) and its ridge/saddle with the punting green - Pt 13,384 is behind it

The punting green is pretty huge (Photo credit: Valerie)

We followed advice to go down a bit of a gully off to the left of the ridge – since it was supposedly loose near the top. This worked out well. We were on relatively stable talus that led us to the ridge not far down from the top. The rest of the way to the saddle was mainly rock hopping. At the saddle it turned into a bit more tundra and easy rock hopping up to the summit. This isn’t to say that the whole process was easy. It was now our third summit of the day, and we were already looking at returning to camp in the dark. It would be easy to tuck tail and forget that Pt 13,384 existed. We were feeling that “Dead Man Peak" was aptly (if unofficially) named. But I reminded Valerie that even though we’d been machine-gunned, handgunned, hijacked, left for dead, dive-bombed, napalmed, and nuclear warheaded, we were not dead yet (Bad Examples).

So we headed back over to the punting green and on to the fourth peak of the day, Pt 13,384. We had been afraid of the amount of time it would take to get there as we heard that there was a lot of scrambling to get that one. In fact, we felt that overall it was actually easier than "Dead Man Peak," and had only a little scrambling just near the top.

Heading down from "Dead Man Peak" (Photo credit: Valerie)

Partial of one of the two summit registers we found with some familiar names

The other with more familiar names

From this vantage we could see the work we had accomplished - as well as the work that remained. Oh, boy! All that ridge, and we’d have to do it again (the Kinks). We were standing in the middle of nowhere, wondering how to begin to find the strength to return.

Now, smarty-pants, do it again

Well, of course, there is only one way, and it’s a long one. (Yes, I was thinking of adding some AC/DC here – I’ll let you guess which one – but they already get enough airplay.)

The ridge was also a good place to get views, if not good phone pics (if you're me), of the Sand Dunes

We would just have to put one foot in front of the other and grind it out. On the return, the wind started to whip up - especially once we made it over Cleveland. It was gusting enough that we had to take care along the ridge. You wouldn’t want to stumble up there. So getting good foot (James Brown) placements was crucial.

We did finally make our way back across the ridge and down the gully. We found ourselves firing up the headlamps just as we got to the dreaded willows again. I remember my first time in the willows above Ruby Lake. Rainier Wolfcastle (Shawn) and I had not come up the Ruby trail. Instead, we had come over the pass with Noname during and after storms. We were unable to find the trail through the giant willows so we hacked our way through them for over an hour. By the time we got down to Ruby Lake, we were chilled to the bone with chattering teeth from the rain on the willows. Even though these willows were not rain soaked, the willow death match Valerie and I fought this night was worse. These willows were in cliffy terrain so we were constantly falling and clawing our way back up. When we weren’t in willows, there was thick, trap-door vegetation that hid where the ground underneath was. It’s a miracle we didn’t sprain or break an ankle. We couldn’t really follow our track from the morning either because my Inreach only records straight lines between the periodic tracking points and Gaia was acting up for Valerie. The ridge was fun, if long. This was just a nightmare. Anyway, with grit and determination and a finally compliant Gaia, Valerie found a way down for us that preserved our lives, if not our desire for life, while I stumbled glassy-eyed behind. Once back at camp we immediately went to sleep – not dead yet, but maybe dead to the world until morning.

The hike out breezed by. We were each finding our way out on our own schedules. As with the hike in, I passed some hunters -- these were packing in with horses. Good luck to them. Unlike the hike in at night, I was able to see that some flowers were still hanging on. One in particular caught my eye. It was just a simple flower, small and plain. I looked it up afterwards and found this pearly hued flower isn’t known very well, but is called the Acony Bell (Gillian Welch).

Acony Bell? Well, that's what I'm calling it

After such a long day of hiking, I figured I deserved some rest. So I just crashed on the chaise longue (Wet Leg) – all day long.

Happy trails (Van Halen), everyone!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
09/13/2021 08:44
How are your Cavs doing after such an endeavor like Cleveland and friends. Pretty isolated lonely place. Must be pretty Erie.

Nice report & photos
09/13/2021 09:11
Thanks for the trip report, Dave, though I can't say I'm looking forward to bashing through the willows. It's nice to know what to expect if/when I finally get around to these peaks..

09/13/2021 10:17
Dave, thanks for documenting such a challenging day and it was great to meet you! The gulley I took up avoided all but 20-30 ft of willows by going all the way around the lake and staying close to the east face of Tijeras. I wasn‘t sure it would go but thankfully it did.

09/15/2021 11:21
Dave: Nice! The Ca(l)v(e)s are doing surprising well.

Eddie: Yeah, see Randy's comment for possibly a better way. We probably just screwed up the approach.

Randy: It was great to meet you as well. Besides the willow trouble, it was a fun day. I'm glad you were able to avoid most of the willows. Maybe we should've started later, too; we'd have been able to see better. We just weren't on our guard about that possible hazard.

Thanks Dave!
09/13/2021 15:03
I was rather enjoying the ridge...until the "sequel" to Cleveland.... ;)

I agree, maybe starting a little later would have saved us an hour's time on the ascent as well as an hour of extra energy and aggravation, which might have resulted in us shaving 1-2 hour RT...who knows. It was exhausting and frustrating, but thrilled we got down without anything more than some scratches and bruises so, it was a great day! And thanks for taking turns playing the, "What's on the other side of these willows?" game. For those that haven't played, the answer was often, "Oh, more willows," "Cliffy/Slippery embankment," and, "Don't go this way". I'm sure there's a better way to ascend/descend, we just didn't do was dark and I like floundering.

Mtnman200 - Yes, maybe RWinters way is better and if one can wait for some daylight, one will probably fair better.

RWinters - Great that you could make it too! Good luck with the rest of your goals this year!

Go team!
09/16/2021 07:07
Very nice TR!

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